NBC EXILED FROM TOP TEN

NBC continued its decline from its previous ratings dominance last week as it was completely shut out of the Nielsen top ten -- even as once struggling ABC placed three new shows on the list, Desperate Housewives (#3), Grey's Anatomy (#8), and Lost (#10). CBS continued to prevail as the top-ranked network, once again placing CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in first place. It was also helped by Saturday's telecast of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Tournament. Overall, CBS averaged an 8.5/13 for the week, well ahead of NBC's 6.3/10. ABC was a hair's breadth behind with a 6.2/9, while Fox trailed with a 5.6/8.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 17.2/26; 2. American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 15.5/24; 3. American Idol (Wednesday), Fox, 14.8/22; 3. Desperate Housewives, ABC, 14.8/22; 5. Without a Trace, CBS, 13.5/22; 6. Survivor: Palau, CBS, 12.0/19; 7. House, Fox, 11.3/17; 8. Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 11.1/17; 9. NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Tournament (Saturday), CBS, 10.9/19; 10. Lost, ABC, 10.7/17.

MARTIN WARNS CABLE EXECS ON INDECENCY

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin appeared to soften his stand favoring regulating decency on cable TV, telling the National Cable Show in San Francisco Tuesday that there is a limit on the commission's ability to impose rules on the industry. "Congress will have to determine whether indecency rules should be applied to cable," he said. Nevertheless, he warned, the surest way for the industry to avoid Congressional action is for it to "voluntarily step up" and remove offending programs. He suggested that cable operators offer a package of "family friendly" cable networks to subscribers. His remarks came one day after Congressman James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, declared that the threat of new regulations is not enough to discourage broadcasters from violating decency standards and called for criminal action against offenders. "That way you aim the cannon specifically at the people who are committing the offenses," he said -- presumably referring to on-air talent like Howard Stern, Janet Jackson, Bono and others who have been involved in incidents fueling the brouhaha over broadcast decency. He said that although he himself opposes efforts to extend broadcast decency rules to cable, in the current political climate, Congress is likely to do just that.

SONY IN $350-MILLION WORLD CUP DEAL

Marking one of the biggest sponsorship deals in sports history, Sony has signed a $350-million deal with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to become a flagship sponsor of soccer's World Cup in 2010 and 2014, the organization announced today (Wednesday). Sony said that it plans to use its sponsorship to promote its consumer electronics, game stations and personal computers. In a statement. Sony Group CEO Nobuyuki Idei commented: "FIFA has a spectacular reach around the world through the universal language of football and it is thus a unique attribute that convinced us to commit to this global sponsorship deal. This is an ideal opportunity for us to leverage the powerful assets of the Sony Group in electronics, entertainment and technology." The statement also noted that under the deal Sony will "advise FIFA in the technical development of TV and broadcast equipment" for the World Cup.

JENNINGS DROPS ANCHOR

Although, in disclosing on Tuesday that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, ABC anchor Peter Jennings had said that he planned to continue anchoring World News Tonight, he was replaced Tuesday by Elizabeth Vargas. Appearing in a pretaped segment during the broadcast, Jennings said in a crackly voice, "I will continue to do the broadcast. On good days my voice will not be like this." It was not clear what was responsible for his hoarseness. ABC News president David Westin later said that he expected Jennings to continue working while undergoing chemotherapy "to the extent he can do so comfortably."

TIVO TO OFFER "RELEVANT" ADS

Comcast Cable subscribers who record their programs on TiVo units, are likely to discover commercials on those programs that are different from the ones originally broadcast, news reports indicated Tuesday. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told a meeting of cable executives in San Francisco late Monday that his company and TiVo are working on finding a way to target individual subscribers with relevant advertising as a means of keeping them from skipping commercials.

POPE'S DEATH CAUSES HOUSEWIVES PRODUCERS TO EDIT SCENE

The producers of Desperate Housewives were asked to alter a scene mentioning Catholics in last Sunday's episode because it was deemed inappropriate in light of Pope John Paul II's expected death at the time. In the scene, a character remarks during a funeral, "You have to hand it to the Catholics, they do grieve better than anyone." Instead, actress Marcia Cross, who played the character, was asked to record a new line, substituting the words "Gabby and Carlos" for "the Catholics." British news reports quoted exec producer Michael Edelstein as saying, "We got a phone call from ABC Friday evening asking about the line. In light of world events, we felt we should be more sensitive. We were happy to go in and make a last-second fix."

TRANSMITTING EQUIPMENT SUSPECTED IN AUSSIE CANCER OUTBREAK

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. is attempting to determine whether transmitting equipment at its broadcasting facility in Toowong, a suburb of Brisbane, might be responsible for 12 of its 60 female employees being diagnosed with breast cancer recently. Five of the women, three of them in their 30s, share the same newsroom production desk, The Australian newspaper reported today (Wednesday). Breast cancer is rare in younger women.

FOR STUDIOS, THE NAME OF THE GAME IS GAMES

The motion picture industry is still looking for a formula to port its movies to the video game platform. According to a study by market researchers The NPD Group reported in today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Daily News, The Matrix video game sold about 2 million units. By contrast, sales of the "pure" video game Halo totaled $125 million on the first day it hit the shelves. "It took Spider-Man four days to do that [at the box office," Keith Boesky, an industry analyst based in Los Angeles, told the Daily News. Some studios, however, have begun to restructure their video game divisions and pump more money into them. "Our top brass has openly said this is a sector they wish to invest in. The growth in this division is obvious," Disney's Buena Vista Games spokeswoman Angela Emery told the newspaper.

SODERBERGH HIRING ACTORS WITH NO ACTING EXPERIENCE

Director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich Traffic, Ocean's Eleven, Twelve) has hired only non-actors to appear in his new movie, Bubble, being shot in the towns of Parkersburg and Belpre, Ohio, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, noting that Soderbergh's cast is comprised solely of local residents. Producer Gregory Jacobs told the wire service that instead of recruiting local actors, the casting director "would go into beauty salons and go to the mall and the Wal-Mart and fast-food places, literally would just walk around and look for people that she felt were the right people for the movie." The film is also being shot in local homes, bars, a jail and a hospital.

FORMER CARMEL MAYOR MEETS WITH GOVERNOR OF TOKYO

Clint Eastwood met with Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara today (Wednesday) to seek his cooperation for his forthcoming Flags of Our Fathers, about the six American soldiers seen in Joe Rosenthal's famous photograph planting the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi in WWII. Ishihara reportedly asked Eastwood to show respect for 20,000 Japanese soldiers who died in the Iwo Jima battle (7,000 Americans also died) and to avoid sacred grounds. Katsumi Kumagai, a spokesman for the Tokyo government, told reporters later that Eastwood promised that he would respect the governor's wishes. Although the island of Iwo Jima is located 750 miles south of Tokyo, it is administered by the Tokyo government.

PARAMOUNT PULLING OUT OF BRITISH STUDIO

Paramount's new regime under CEO Brad Grey has decided to shut down production of its costly Watchmen feature at Pinewood Studios near London and move it to a different country. Producer Lloyd Levin told the British trade publication Screen Daily that the decision to move the $120-million production was due to "the expense of shooting in the UK with the [unfavorable] exchange rate and the loss of certain rebates." Pinewood Shepperton, the company that owns Pinewood Studios, recently said that several productions had been put on hold because of the British government's decision to alter its tax incentives to filmmakers. Shares in Pinewood Shepperton plummeted 15 percent on word of the Watchmen pull-out. The company issued a statement saying that it "will seek to procure alternative customers for the stages but is unlikely to be able to recover all the anticipated shortfall."

ANOTHER ACTOR NAMED THE NEXT JAMES BOND

Yet another actor has been "chosen" to become the next James Bond. The London Daily Sun, citing an unnamed movie source, reported today (Wednesday) that British actor Daniel Craig had landed the Bond role in MGM's forthcoming Casino Royale. The newspaper said that the staff of EON, the production company that controls the Bond franchise, had been told that Craig had been tabbed for the part. "Daniel is the new 007. He is going through the deal with his lawyers. It's a big commitment for a minimum of 10 years, but he has indicated he will take the job," the source said. In recent days, various reports have said that actors Clive Owen and Gavin Carlys had landed the Bond role, while still others had said that Pierce Brosnan would be brought back.

MPAA TO PROVIDE X-RAY EQUIPMENT AT MALAYSIAN AIRPORTS

Malaysia, regarded as one of the world's largest producers of pirated movies and CDs, said today (Wednesday) that by the end of May it will install X-ray devices that can spot the bootleg disks at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and at another airport in Penang state, Singapore's New Straits Times reported. The newspaper said that the machines will be procured by the Motion Picture Association of America and that they will also aid in the detection of explosives, firearms and contraband.